Does your facility foster a positive food safety culture?

Food safety culture is measurable and part of a system of continuous improvements

Consumer Pet Food Safety
Pet owners develop an impression of pet food based partially on perceptions of its safety, and companies and regulators both play a key role. | Mykyta Dolmatov I

Food safety management systems should feature a positive food safety culture, according to Dr. Billie Johnson, food safety and regulatory compliance manager at BHJ North America, who spoke May 2 during the 2023 Petfood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

“Do we have positive food safety culture? Now, everybody that you talk to you in the industry is going to tell you food safety culture is hard to monitor, hard to recognize, hard to figure out,” she said. “Not really … it's measurable just like everything else: How many quality incidents have you had? How many recalls have you had? If you've had a recall, you don't have a very good food safety culture right now.”

Management practices that foster a positive food safety culture include management commitment and leadership, roles and responsibilities that all employees understand, training and education, resource management, documentation, supplier-customer partnerships, and continuous improvements.

Johnson told a story about a facility audit she was a part of where there was a broken pallet on the floor. Several team members stepped over the broken pallet and kept on walking.

“I stopped and picked it up; the auditor was right beside me. She dinged them all for not having a food safety culture in place, because the best way we learn is through example. If my manager picks up that actual piece of debris in the floor, then I'm likely to do the exact same thing. But if they all step over it, then why should anybody pick it up?”

Johnson explained five ways to determine if a facility has a positive food safety culture established:

  • Is everybody engaged and involved?
  • Are employees prepared for questions the auditor might ask?
  • Do employees have a good attitude toward the work and the inspection?
  • Are employees willing and able to discuss and describe what they do?
  • Does management stress that, while production numbers are important, it’s important that everything produced is safe and of high quality?
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